US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

Afghan security personnel secure a road as smoke billows from the site of suicide attack as an ongoing attack between Afghan security force and suicide attackers in Jalalabad on July 31, 2018. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

  • Intense gunbattles raged Friday morning and several shops had burned
  • US forces launched airstrikes to counter the assault on an Afghan provincial capital

KABUL: US forces launched airstrikes Friday to counter a major Taliban assault on an Afghan provincial capital, where terrified residents cowered in their homes amid explosions and gunfire as security forces try to beat the insurgents back.
Officials said Afghan special forces were also being deployed to the southeastern city of Ghazni after the latest attempt by the Taliban to capture an urban centre, with the assault coming as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.
At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.
Civilian houses and army checkpoints have come under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters are in the streets, he added.
The Taliban began the attack late Thursday from several positions around the city, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said.
Residents who spoke to AFP said power has been cut to the area since fighting erupted, with heavy gunfire ringing out across the city and a government building set on fire.
"We are scared for our life. The Taliban are roaming everywhere in and around the city," shopkeeper Mohammad Haleem told AFP.
Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban were using loudspeakers at the mosque to warn residents to stay in their homes.
"Heavy explosions and gunfire can be heard. We are terrified," Yasan wrote in a Facebook post.
The US said that the city remained under government control.
"U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni," the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted Friday.
"Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all govt. centers. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines," it continued.
A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in the onslaught and confirmed the airstrikes.
"Commando forces are on their way, and black hawks are hitting important enemy targets," wrote Shahhussain Murtazawi in a post on social media.
Police special forces have also been deployed to help block the Taliban advance on the city, an Afghan security official said.
The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city".
"So far 140 enemy forces have been killed or wounded," the group said.
The Taliban frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.


New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

Updated 20 September 2019

New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

  • The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field
  • De Blasio had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said during an MSNBC television appearance that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential campaign.
De Blasio, 58, launched his candidacy in May with the central campaign message “Working People First,” becoming the 24th Democrat to attempt to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and a long list of experienced politicians.
News of the mayor ending his presidential bid was greeted with sarcasm by Trump.
“Oh no, really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years! Part time Mayor of New York City, @BilldeBlasio, who was polling at a solid ZERO but had tremendous room for growth, has shocking dropped out of the Presidential race,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “NYC is devastated, he’s coming home!“
De Blasio had registered little support in polls and was eclipsed by progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
De Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a “central reason” for his decision was the party’s rules for qualifying for televised debates. He had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination.
“The bar is so high so early that for a lot of us — clearly, some of my fellow chief executives, governors — couldn’t make that cut,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear to me it’s a high bar, and that it’s one I’m not going to be able to meet.”
De Blasio had emphasized during the campaign a list of progressive wins under his leadership, including universal pre-kindergarten, the end of the policing practice known as stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave, all in a city that has a bigger population, more than 8 million, than most US states.
Most New Yorkers had appeared unenthused about de Blasio’s presidential aspirations. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found more than three-quarters of New Yorkers did not feel he should make a White House bid.